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Beynon and NZME Radio Ltd - 2018-052 (24 August 2018)

Members

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Paula Rose
  • Wendy Palmer

Complainant

  • Kirsten Beynon

Dated

24th August 2018

Number

2018-052

Channel/Station

The Hits

Broadcaster

New Zealand Media and Entertainment

Summary

[This summary does not form part of the decision.]

A complaint about the use of the word ‘gypped’ during a segment of Sarah, Sam and Toni has not been upheld. The Authority found the host’s use of this word on this occasion did not carry any malicious intent and therefore did not reach the threshold required to be considered a breach of the discrimination and denigration standard. While the Authority did not uphold the complaint, they acknowledged that the casual use of this term and its variants may cause offence to some members of the public and noted care is required when using expressions relating to sections of the community.

Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration  


The broadcast

[1]  During a segment on Sarah, Sam and Toni, during a discussion about brands of printers, one of the hosts said, ‘Oh my god they’ve gypped the system, you sneaky little so and so’s’. This segment was broadcast on 25 May 2018 on The Hits at 8.30am.

The complaint

[2]  Kirsten Beynon complained the host’s use of the word ‘gypped’ was unacceptable, as in her view, it is a widely documented racial slur against the Romani people meaning ‘cheated’ or ‘stolen from’.

[3]  Ms Beynon considered this broadcast breached the discrimination and denigration standard of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[4]  Ms Beynon provided an analysis of the history of the word and its use. The analysis states:

  • The use of this word is discriminatory and ‘encourages further discrimination by perpetuating the stereotype of Romani as cheats, swindlers, and thieves’.
  • Debate about the origins of the word does not change the common association of the term with a stereotype of Romani as cunning tricksters and thieves.
  • This debate can’t be used ‘to explain away casual racism’.
  • The use of other comparative terms that might offend according to cultural identity have declined in recent years, due to movements ‘which have brought overt racism to the fore’.

The broadcaster’s response

[5]  NZME’s response to Ms Beynon’s complaint was that:

  • Taking into account the common usage of the word ‘gypped’, the contested nature of the word’s origin and differing understandings of what the word means, use of the word was unlikely to meet the standard required to find a breach of the discrimination and denigration standard.
  • The word was not used maliciously by the host, and was not intended to cause offence.
  • Given the usage of gypped (or gipped/jipped) in the New Zealand vernacular (such as ‘my knee is giving me gyp’), the word could not reasonably be equated with the other allegedly culturally offensive terms suggested by the complainant.
  • The content director of The Hits has spoken to the host involved, and assured NZME the host was completely unaware of any purported offensive meaning. NZME apologised that Ms Beynon took offence to this.

The standards

[6]  The discrimination and denigration standard (Standard 6) protects against broadcasts which encourage the denigration of, or discrimination against, any section of the community on account of sex, sexual orientation, race, age, disability, occupational status, or as a consequence of legitimate expression of religion, culture or political belief. A high level of condemnation, often with an element of malice or nastiness, will be necessary to conclude that a broadcast encouraged discrimination or denigration in contravention of the standard.1

Our findings

[7]  In New Zealand we value the right to freedom of expression enshrined in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990. So when we consider a complaint that a broadcast has breached broadcasting standards, we first look at the right to freedom of expression. We weigh the value of the programme, and the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression, against the level of actual or potential harm that might be caused by the broadcast. This could be harm to an individual, or, as alleged in this case, harm to society or the audience generally.

[8]  In determining this complaint we reflected on the way that language in broadcasting has the potential to cause harm. We acknowledge that Ms Beynon was offended by the use of the term in question. Terms that are used to denigrate sections of society have the ability to cause societal harm. For this reason the discrimination and denigration standard exists as a justified limit on the exercise of freedom of expression in broadcasting. It requires broadcasters to take care when using expressions relating to sections of the community.

[9]  In this instance, we note the contested origin of this expression. We also note that the host was not aware of the potential discriminatory interpretation and it was not used with any nastiness or malice. Notwithstanding this, the broadcaster offered an apology to Ms Beynon for any offence it may have caused and the content manager of NZME has spoken to the host about the use of the word.

[10]  It is not the Authority’s role to determine the origin of the term or its variations as debated by the complainant and broadcaster. In our recent research, Language That May Offend,2 the word ‘gypsy’ was raised by one respondent (out of 1,514 total) when asked to identify other offensive words/phrases from a cultural perspective. It was not raised at all in the 2013 research. This research is undertaken to assist us to reflect community attitudes and is a relevant consideration in the determination of this complaint.

[11]  Against this background, the key issue we considered was whether the word was used with any condemnation or malice. Upon listening to the broadcast we all agreed that the host’s comment was not made with condemnation. The term was used only once in the broadcast when discussing brands of printers. While some listeners may have found the host’s use of the term insensitive, we do not consider that it carried the element of malice or nastiness required to find a breach under this standard.

[12] For these reasons we find that the broadcast did not breach the discrimination and denigration standard and any limitation on the broadcasters’ right to freedom of expression in this case is not justified.

For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint. 

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
24 August 2018

 

 


Appendix

The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:

1     Kirsten Beynon’s formal complaint – 25 May 2018
2     NZME’s response to the complaint – 22 June 2018
3     Ms Beynon’s referral to the Authority – 25 June 2018
4     Analysis of the history of the word, supplied by Ms Beynon – 25 June 2018
5     NZME’s response to the referral – 10 July 2018


1 Guideline 6b

Language That May Offend in Broadcasting (Broadcasting Standards Authority, June 2018)